Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/11/2012 -- One Year Later, Still No Answers

September 11, 2013

One year ago today, an organized mob of terrorists attacked a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  The Ambassador had previously asked for increased security, and it was denied.  The attack lasted for about six hours.  The Ambassador and Sean Smith were killed in the "safe room" soon after the attack began; security operatives Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed on the rooftop of one of the buildings in the compound by enemy mortar fire several hours later, near the end of the attack.  

Almost immediately, the Obama Administration's official position was that the attack grew out of a demonstration against the existence of an internet-based video that appeared to demean the prophet Mohammed.  The maker of the video was arrested and jailed in Los Angeles, ostensibly for a parole violation.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton pointedly promised to bring the actual killers to justice.  Some days or weeks later the Administration announced that the video was not to blame, but that a terrorist attack was.  More than thirty other American State Department employees and American operatives were present during the attack, and they escaped with injuries of varying severity.  The video maker was recently released from jail.

These are almost the only aspects of the incident that everyone agrees on, even though there have been several Congressional hearings attempting to learn more about what happened, and an Accountability Review Board investigation was commissioned by the Administration to look into the matter as well.

Doesn't the fact that all these investigations can't fill in the rest of the picture tell us that something is very wrong?

The unanswered questions boil down to these:  

  • Who refused to provide more security when the Ambassador insisted it was needed.  Why was his request denied?  
  • Who carried out the attack?  What was the reason behind it?  
  • Who was tracking the incident in the White House?  
  • Who was making decisions and giving orders throughout the night, and who was carrying them out?  
  • Why was there no significant attempt to make any kind of response to the attack when it began?  
  • Where was the President during the attack?  What was he doing? 
  • Why did he not think an attack on a diplomatic post required some of his personal attention?
  • Who decided to blame the attack on the video, when the evidence is that everybody involved knew that wasn't the case?  And why?
  • Who ordered that the survivors be kept away from the Congressional investigators, even keeping their names secret, and why?

These questions have all been asked by various people in various venues, some of them many times, but none of them have been answered credibly by those who know the answers.

And three questions unasked by the traditional media:

  • Why was the Ambassador put in that position in the first place?  
  • How can anyone look at this list of unanswered questions and not conclude that the Obama Administration is executing a cover-up of something by stonewall?  
  • What is being covered up?

The primary question in every case starts with "Who?"  Until that's answered, the rest remain speculation.  "Who" can tell us "why," and nobody else.

President Obama has called this a "phony scandal."  His surrogates appear on television regularly to repeat that claim, and if they want to engage at all on the subject, they fall back to the law-enforcement approach--"We are working every day to identify who the killers are and to bring them to justice," as if that were the only fact and action yet to be known and taken, as if the only reason to ask questions is to "make sure it never happens again."  But in the greater scheme of things, the much more important questions all have to do with actions in Washington, not in Libya.  And because of that, the next favorite statement from those surrogates is "Republicans are just on a witch hunt to get dirt on the President."

But wasn't that exactly the motivation behind the 1973 Watergate hearings?  Certainly they weren't held just to make sure another hotel room break-in would never happen.  Even if placing blame is the motive this time, the best response is to show the dirt is not to be found at the President's door.

The President has told us that he wants to get to the bottom of things, but today we still have most of the same questions we had a year ago.  And supporting the suspicion of a stonewall cover-up is the fact that almost all of those questions could be answered easily with three short sentences from the President to his immediate subordinates--"Answer the committee's questions and tell the truth.  If you don't know the answers, find them.  If you can't do that, please find another line of work."

I wonder why he hasn't spoken them.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What Will President Obama Do About Syria?

Why does the Syrian situation seem so much more difficult than that of Libya, for instance, or than Egypt was?  Why didn't Obama just handle it the same way, instead of making threats to attack Syria unilaterally?  Syria comes with some built in problems that didn't apply to those two countries and their uprisings and revolutions.

The Practical Problems

We have problems with our intelligence. That is, the people whom we count on to give us accurate information don't seem to be in agreement about the situation in Syria. We don't know the makeup of the anti-Assad groups, for instance. We may not truly know whom to support against Bashar al-Assad, although they claim they do.

Even with perfect intelligence, the future isn't just unknowable, its degree of uncertainty is extremely high and many-faceted. Among other things, we don't know how our action or inaction will affect the civil war, or how it will be perceived by either our adversaries or our friends. We don't know what the consequences will be, intended or unintended. We don't know who will end up controlling the ChemWeapons, nor how we can insure the threat level will be lower after an attack than it is now. How can it be better if they remain in the hands of ANY Syrians? How can we get them out of their hands without putting our soldiers into the action on the ground?

We don't know how big our involvement will eventually become. Will it stop with the "shot across the bow," or will it by necessity of circumstance grow into a full invasion?

What is our objective? Is it to deter future use of ChemW's on the part of Syria, or of other countries? Is it to affect the course of the war itself? Do we take different actions for one that we wouldn't take for the other? Some "experts" tell us that it will be unacceptable for Assad and his Hezbollah supporters to eventually prevail, creating a situation ripe for Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, at Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia's (and our) peril. That tight connection with a much stronger nation, Iran, was missing from the other revolutions, and it matters a lot.  Yet that doesn't seem to be what the President is talking about.

And we can't forget both the cost of the operation and the drain on our military resources.  We have been stretching the limits of our capabilities for ten years, and the Obama Administration has been quietly cutting the Pentagon's budget for several years now.  We have less capacity to engage in foreign wars now than we did in 2003.  If we were to put the burden of a new campaign on our military, it might have a tremendously demoralizing effect in all the services, which would in turn further degrade our ability to fight, which is ironically one of the objectives President Obama has laid out for the attack--only he says his intention is to degrade Assad's capabilities, not ours.  Consequently, any attack at all should be one that is absolutely necessary for our own national security.

An operation with so many unknowns and such a high degree of uncertainty is simply begging to either go wrong (the Carter debacle in the desert) or more properly, be canceled.

The Political Problems

We are told that we MUST react to the use of ChemW because we (President Obama) said we would, and/or because if we don't, we're inviting the next use of it. That our threat of force followed up by our use of force gives credibility to the policy of deterrence. If we don't follow up on our warnings, that policy will be nullified.

Our President is in an unenviable position. He has essentially made threats that he doesn't seem now to want to carry out. Does he need to do something just to maintain some measure of credibility?

Congress has been asked to pass judgment on the military option. If it says "No," should the President back off, and if so, should it be philosophically or acrimoniously? Or if he goes ahead with an air strike, what will that do to his relationship with Congress, and how will the people take it politically?

The people are overwhelmingly against attacking Syria. This is a political problem for some of those in Congress who believe a strike is necessary to maintain the credibility of the US in the world community of civilized nations. Simultaneously, the people don't have access to all the facts about the situation. Maybe we, the people, shouldn't have the last word. Or maybe we should be told more of the facts so that our last word is more likely to be right.

A different type of political problem is faced by the President. His approval ratings have recently been at low tide so he doesn't want to take any political chances, yet he is already on record as favoring an action the electorate dislikes. He isn't up for re-election, but he needs his popularity to help him get more of his policies in place. Yet if he backs out of the strike, he looks weak on the world stage, which also hurts him politically at home.

The Presidential Problems

The President isn't getting much traction for several reasons. He isn't really out there selling his program. He talks about it, but he doesn't say enough about why it's better than some other program, or even about why it's necessary. He can send out his emissaries to talk to us, and John Kerry could be effective at it, but the President undercut his Secretary of State last week, and that cost Kerry a lot of credibility on his own right.

The President's indecisiveness hurts him tremendously. He says he doesn't need Congress and he will strike quickly. Then he thinks it over, and decides to ask for the blessing of Congress.  This in turn makes him seem to be too quick to threaten and too slow to act.

He can't convince our traditional good allies to help him with the job. Why?

He has no personal credibility with about half of the population, and about half of the rest are skeptical. He said he intended to make just a one-day air strike. Senator John McCain also assures us there will be no "boots on the ground." But the Pentagon has estimated it would take 150,000 boots on the ground (75,000 troops) to secure Assad's ChemW's. And he can't honestly rule out the possibility of the need for those soldiers, because he hasn't convinced anybody that he doesn't really want to remove Assad and secure the ChemW's.

He compounded his credibility problem by claiming that HE didn't draw any red lines, everybody else did, even though the video is right up there for everybody to see. That's inexplicable, because it's unnecessary.

He announced his battle strategy two weeks ago (firing a warning shot), which made it immediately ineffective and meaningless. His eagerness to tell us the good ideas he has leads him to tell everybody everything about them. This trait doesn't inspire confidence in his judgment.

He has no experience as a leader of large operations, and he doesn't project the image of a man who can do it the first time he tries. He is looked upon as particularly unsuited for the task he is setting up for himself. In fact, there may be a majority of Americans who think he's incapable of pulling it off, and they don't want to have a military operation that is destined to fail from the start, costing us even more lives.

And finally, among and beyond those who don't believe in the President's ability to successfully lead our military in battle, there are more than a few who don't trust the man, Obama.  They don't trust his words, they don't trust his motives, and they don't trust his wisdom. They may not be a majority, but their numbers aren't small and they are vocal, and they are gaining adherents. It behooves this President to give them nothing to hang their suspicions on.

Putting it together

We have a situation with a great number of unknowns and very few knowns. The situation may be critical, but it hasn't been convincingly explained as to why it's critical.

Absent the explanation, there is little public support for the action.

Absent a track record on the President's part, with a widespread lack of confidence in his military leadership abilities, and without a pressing need for immediate action, this operation seems unlikely to proceed.

I believe it's much more likely that the President will change direction again before Tuesday, September 10, 2013, and that he will start a new initiative of some kind, perhaps diplomatic, perhaps through the U.N., and he will tone the belligerent rhetoric way, way down.  The speech Tuesday night could kick that off.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Brief and Direct: Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood

From the morning paper--Eugene Robinson of the WaPo Writers Group, regarding Egyptian turmoil:
The interior minister's claim that soldiers did not use live ammunition was the kind of bald-faced lie that only repressive governments think they can get away with; Western correspondents described seeing protesters cut down by sniper fire....
I say a regime with the press in its pocket thinks the same way. If those correspondents didn't report it, they would get away with it. How about the following gems from somewhere closer than Egypt? Is the government that issued these bald-faced lies "repressive"? I think it's getting there:

Black Panthers with clubs outside polling places? Nothing to see there. No prosecution necessary.

We have to give millions of dollars to companies like Solyndra to "jump start" the Green industry.

The Keystone pipeline would only create 50 permanent jobs.

The border has never been as secure as it is today.

The shooting at Fort Hood is an example of "workplace violence."

It's Bush's fault.

The president was closely involved in the capture/killing of bin Laden.

We've created 9 million new jobs.

The attack at Benghazi was caused by an objectionable video posted on the Internet.

The decision to sidetrack Tea Party groups' legal applications for educational tax status was made by "rogue agents" in a regional office.

Liberal groups were targeted by the IRS just as Tea Party groups were.

The President can't comment on the attempts to deport a family who had been granted asylum from German religious persecution. This isn't the seventeenth century.

We had to tell the judge that James Rosen was suspected of being a conspirator to leak secrets. Otherwise, he wouldn't have granted the warrant to tap Rosen's phones and emails. But we "never intended to prosecute him for being a reporter."

We are storing pictures of every piece of mail sent in the US, and we retain copies of the metadata associated with every phone call made and every email sent, and we can access the contents of many or all of them, but we would never look at any of them without a properly executed and justified warrant.

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars for the President and his family to vacation in Europe, Africa, and Asia is completely justified by his position.

We have a deficit because too many people are not paying their fair share of taxes.
It's Bush's fault.

I have doubled the national debt because Congress wouldn't cooperate with me.

We think the actions of the perpetrators of (Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations) are unconscionable and unacceptable.

We won't stop until we bring the perpetrators of (Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations) to justice.

Benghazi, Ft. Hood, Fast and Furious, IRS malfeasance, GSA overspending, NSA privacy and procedure violations are phony scandals.

Republicans want to deny health care to the poor.

It's ok for the President to enforce only the parts of laws that he likes. That's what we call "faithfully executing" the law. He can delay the parts of Obamacare that are inconvenient politically, because he's the President.

Congress will be covered by Obamacare, just like everybody else.

Congress and its staff can't afford to participate in Obamacare unless the government picks up 75% of the tab.

We can cover the health needs of 30 million additional non-paying individuals, and it won't cost one thin dime more than it does now. (And the quantity and quality of care won't suffer, either.)

You'll be able to keep your present health insurance if you want to.

The government won't restrict access to health care for the elderly or anybody else.

Income tax information is completely secure. It is never disclosed to anyone without a court order.

The privacy and integrity of your health records will be safe with us.

It's still Bush's fault.

Heck, this regime can even get away with telling the painful truth without being called on it:

I'm in favor of wealth re-distribution.

When we pass this Cap and Trade legislation, it will cause energy prices to skyrocket.

What I want in the end is a single-payer health insurance program.

The elderly may have to accept pain killers instead of surgery.

I won.

Previously published at

Brief and Direct: How Can Our Favorites Fall from Grace So Fast?

From an answer to another RedState poster (with an edit at the end):

To answer you straight, a reason conservatives have a hair trigger when it comes to their elected favorites is that it matters so much. If you are a member of a sizable majority, the occasional defection for whatever reason can make no difference at all; it can be understood as a tactical move prior to an election, important to the defector but not to the final outcome.

The same is true if you are part of a hopeless minority. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins were acceptable for that reason, for a while. They usually voted the right way, seldom made any difference. The most important thing they did was fill Senate seats as Republicans, giving the 'Pubs two vote closer to a majority for CONTROL OF THE SENATE or to block Democrats as a significant minority.

When legislative things get close, then individual votes start to matter more. In those situations, Democrats seem to understand and they toe the line. Republicans don't, perhaps because they haven't had enough experience as a majority. Bart Stupak was the poster boy for being "persuadable." He and his constituents were anti-OCare-abortions, so he was promised there would be none, and his vote pushed OCare over the top (IIRC). It turned out that his constituents were simply anti-OCare. He declined to run for re-election in 2010, and in gratitude his constituents elected a Republican to replace him. So toeing the line can have its price, as can broken promises. And now we have an OCare that includes abortion funding in some cases.

But I digress. Mis-steps by Rubio and Rand Paul and anybody else are magnified in importance because of the size of their footprints. To use Rubio as an example, he was elected by a popular groundswell in reaction to obvious dissembling by Charlie Crist. He was, and IS, a solid conservative--about everything but the immigration issue. Therefore, I could forgive his position on it, even his participation in the Gang of 8, UP TO A POINT.

As long as he was steadfast in his demand for sensible sequencing, for border security before amnesty (let's just use the word instead of being nit-picky about whether it's the "right" word or not), as long as he was truthful, he got a pass from me because of his unique situation. Once he started backing off of security-first, claiming that a plan is as good as a deed, accommodating Chuck Schumer in back-room deals, he lost my support. As I have stated here more than once, he can regain it only by renouncing the Go8 deal and removing his name from it.

Face it. If Rubio's name were not on this abomination of an immigration disaster, it wouldn't have much of a chance of getting out of the Senate, let alone passing in the House. His support for it is crucial. And his opposition would be crucial as well.

So let that be an answer to your unasked question--Why are conservatives so quick to denounce their former favorites? Because they're so important, but only as long as they remain conservative on critical issues.

Previously published at

Brief and Direct: How Can We Know the News Is True?

There's only one way to decide.

Every bit of news must be weighed against common sense, not cynically, but clinically. Does what is being reported make good sense? Does it describe the way real people act? Remember that "real people" include dishonest people, uninformed people, good people, evil people, people with a different outlook on problems than you do, and people who may have MORE information than you have. Do the reports cover relevant issues, or do they emphasize sensationalism, speculation, and assign arcane motives to random actions that could well be meaningless?

Then ask, are the reports complete? Do they attempt to describe the entire event or issue, or is the report incomplete without explanation? Do they leave obvious questions unanswered or even unasked? Do they accept unlikely, illogical explanations from official sources without questioning them? Some of these questions can only be answered definitively by prior knowledge of the event or issue, or in retrospect; others answer themselves as you realize that you have questions the reporter hasn't tried to answer.

For example, we have been told that President Obama was briefed at 5 pm about the attack on Benghazi, he observed some of the attack in the White House situation room, he then told the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense to "take care of it" or something like that, and then he went to bed and wasn't involved at all in any subsequent activity. There doesn't seem to be any dispute--that is what happened.  It also seems indisputable that there are many unasked and unanswered questions in that timeline. Two simple ones are Where was the President during that time, and What was he doing?

And we must ask ourselves, What would cause a President to abdicate his authority to subordinates at a time when our country's sovereign soil (a consulate, we've been told), is under attack, (especially a President who was so visibly involved in the situation room during the Osama bin Laden capture and killing, all the way to the end)?

We must ask, Why was the Ambassador in that situation to begin with?

We must ask, Why wasn't an (official) attempt made to thwart the attacks?

We must ask, Why was an obviously false story about an offensive video put forth as a prime cause for the attack?

We must ask, Why have the survivors of the attack been essentially hidden away from Congressional investigators?

We must ask, Why do senior government officials believe they need both legal counsel and Congressional protection to tell their stories to the House committee investigating the attack?

Now that more information is coming to light, we must ask Why are only Republicans asking questions about the facts of what happened, and why are Democrats doing everything they can to prevent those questions from being answered and to marginalize the answers that emerge?

And no matter what eventually comes out, we must ask, Why did the MSM decide that it wasn't important to find out the answers to any of these questions before the national elections in November, 2012?

After all the questions like that are asked, it's up to us, ourselves, to answer them.

Those were examples, so I'll give one example of a possible answer we can figure out for ourselves. In answer to the question, Why would a President delegate his authority to his underlings (he is stuck with the responsibility, at least President Truman would have been)?  My belief is that he wanted to be able to distance himself from whatever developed. He never seems to want his name on the line until the results are in. If it turned out well, he could claim to be instrumental in that success. If not, as was the case, it wasn't his fault.  He wasn't even there. "He didn't build it."

You can figure out your own answers.  Try it.

Edited and expanded from an article previously published at

Brief and Direct: The Benefits of Obamacare

April 30, 2013--Washington, DC--The White House

In a news conference this morning, President Obama was asked a question about the Affordable Health Care Act by reporter Chuck Todd: "Why does Senator [Max] Baucus... believe that this is going to be [a train wreck], and why do you believe he's wrong?"  The President's answer is enlightening.

"...A huge chunk of it's already been implemented. And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they're already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don't know it. Their insurance is more secure, insurance companies can't drop them, uh, for bad reasons, their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they're 26 years old, ahh, they're getting free preventive care. ...this thing's already happened, and their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That's it. Now, they don't have to worry about anything else."

That's all?  He forgot these "benefits":
  • Many workers are in danger of losing their existing insurance as it becomes too expensive for their employers to carry.
  • Premium costs for the self-insured are already much higher
  • The government is the 'decider' about what is a 'bad reason' for termination or a good enough one
  • We get to pay extra for those 25-year-old 'children'
  • The 'free' preventive care comes with strings, and surely somebody is paying for it
  • A real unmentioned impact is that the cost of all health insurance is already skyrocketing
  • People are being forced to carry insurance they don't want, or with more coverage than they want
  • Payments to health care providers are being drastically cut to help offset the higher cost of administration of the new bureaucracy
  • Taxes will go up to pay for the rest of the new bureaucracy and increased use of medical facilities
  • One result: Doctors are already leaving their practices (I received a letter from mine today informing me she is retiring) which will mean a scarcity of care, whether there is 'coverage' or not
  • Taxes will have to go up to pay premiums for all the newly covered indigent patients
  • The 85 to 90 percent figure is made up out of whole cloth; there is no basis for it in reality
  • Insurance premium costs are forecast to rise in future years to an unsustainable figure; the eventual result will be lower quality care, from less-qualified providers, less innovation in treatments, equipment, and medicine, and long waiting periods for much care
  • The Administration is already talking about withholding certain treatments for patients beyond certain cutoff ages
  • The AHCA is so onerous that businesses by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, are asking for exemptions to be excluded from it
  • Even unions, Obama supporters, who wanted it before it passed are calling it a disaster in the making, as does Senator Baucus--"a train wreck." They have the resources to study, understand, and reject it
  • Workers in some industries are having their hours cut back to keep businesses under the 50 full-time employee threshold
  • Perhaps worst of all, it does nothing it was promised to do--it doesn't reduce or hold down costs, it will not end up with more people able to receive care in the end, and the quality of the care they do receive will be compromised
They might be worrying about those issues. They're already experiencing that "benefit," too.

Does the President not know these facts, or does he simply think that we don't know them? And why does it have to be reported in a blog, rather than in the MSM?

Originally published at